Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 12


Our first stop after lunch at Magellan’s (if you haven’t read the rest of this trip report, go here to get caught up) was Fortress Explorations, which was literally right next door. Only Henry and I had been up here earlier in the trip. Henry actually wandered around in it a bit, while I just rushed in for a photo of the Chamber of Planets while I was doing a nighttime shoot. Henry was pretty enthusiastic about the place, and I’ll admit that Sarah and I weren’t initially too keen on the idea of spending our last valuable hours doing Tokyo DisneySea’s version of Tom Sawyer Island.

One of the great things about this trip was not only that the fun experiences were inherently outside of our comfort zones because we were in Japan, but that being with another couple caused us to do things we otherwise probably wouldn’t have done. It’s not that Henry or Kate forced us to do a bunch of things we didn’t want to do (quite the contrary–they were awesome travel companions), but they definitely did have ideas of things to do different from our own. In this case, without Henry’s persuasion, we probably wouldn’t have experienced one of the coolest things at Tokyo DisneySea.

A quick note before we get started: this is the first trip report installment in my new style of photo+caption(esque) text. If you notice a difference between this style and how the trip reports are usually written, what do you think? Is this better or worse?

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Before we get to that, I recently read that a webpage has 15 seconds or less to grab a reader’s attention, so I want to lead with something powerful: light fixtures. DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW?! I realized I didn’t have nearly enough details shots (and the beauty of DisneySea is in the details), so I spent some time with my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 that afternoon, focusing on the little things. This is one of many gorgeous light fixtures at Tokyo DisneySea.

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This muscular-dog-vampire-griffin-like creature in the Chamber of Planets is so much more hardcore than the sad gargoyles that line the bridge leading to Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. I don’t know what it is, but it’s as if the designers took all of the best attributes of various mythical creatures and combined them into one. It sort of reminds of something from Resident Evil. I approve.

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From the top of Fortress Explorations, you can barely see out over Cape Cod. Probably 100 yards beyond the convincing “sea wall” in Tokyo DisneySea is the real sea. Notice the boats in the distance. Real boats doing real things outside of Tokyo, or a incredible layer of Disney theming? You be the judge.

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Henry was devastated when Shrunken Ned’s was removed from the Magic Kingdom, as it was his third-favorite attraction. This boat race(?) game-thing costing $1 reminded him of those happier days. It had wind, whirlpools, and other cool effects.

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This is the Illusion Room. You look through this and see all sorts of depth…and illusions!

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I think some fans will find humor in a S.E.A. canon aimed at a Duffy Spring Voyage boat. (In actuality, that boat ride just is decorated with Spring Voyage stuff, and the ride itself is nice and relaxing.)

This just scratches the surface of the 10 “exhibits” in Fortress Explorations, but they were all pretty awesome. There was even a game you could play that included a map, but we were under the impression that you needed to speak Japanese in order to play it (I’m not really sure why we thought that; maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not). This was not just a cooler version of Tom Sawyer Island. It was EPCOT Center caliber “edutainment,” that not only showcased some still-impressive technologies from centuries ago, but also the revolutionary thinkers who devised the devices. Robert Niles summed up Fortress Explorations pretty well, and I wholly agree with him.

It’s the cool real contributions these real “members” of S.E.A. that makes me question whether it was a good idea to add fictional characters to the society after the fact? To me, it cuts both ways–the society is awesome because it creates a fictional yarn to tie together reality in a plausible, yet far fetched way, but the society is also awesome because it ties together different fictional characters from different theme parks in a way that rewards guests who visit multiple Disney theme parks. I’m still not entirely sure where I fall on this. I’ll have to do a full blog post fleshing out my “internal struggle” at some point in the future…

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Next up was the Venetian Gondolas. These guests are all smiling and laughing at us because the gondola pilot (gondolier?) cracked a joke about DisneySea having working gondolas, and Epcot only having stationary ones docked in World Showcase Lagoon. Or something like that.

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Laugh it up. Epcot’s Italy may have 0 attractions, but it has approximately 13 restaurants, food stands, and bars! Uh…

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Serpents and spiders, tail of a rat; call in the spirits, wherever they’re at.

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There, fan photographers (and there are a lot of them) focus almost solely on characters, and camp out for prime spots. Many fan photographers carry pro-grade bird and sports lenses–the kind of lenses that cost around $4,000-$10,000 each!

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I would pay top dollar for this. To the best of my knowledge, I purchased the only piece of S.E.A. merchandise, which is a glass from Magellan’s…with Duffy on the front of it.

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Another in my series of details shots. Everything from the fountains to the lights to the handrails in Mysterious Island (and everywhere at Tokyo DisneySea) perfectly conveys the theme.

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Things like this trash can that had been lifted off the ground by balloons were all over the parks for the 30th Anniversary. From the best I could tell, you purchase a little trinket, then go up to a reader, then an effect happens. There was also a way to unlock special “stuff” in our Happiness Cam app, but since the app was in Japanese and we only figured out the basics of using it by guessing and seeing the results, we never figured out how to unlock anything.

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Meaningless bragging rights: I’m fairly certain I now possess the world’s largest unofficial collection of Tokyo DisneySea light fixture photos. This is Mermaid Lagoon.

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This merchandise stand is incredible. (No, that’s not the point when this blog jumps the shark with over the top praise of all things TDS without regard for actual quality.) Located between Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon, it’s in a transitional area, and the design of the merchandise cart shows that transition, being a mix of styles of Mysterious Island and Mermaid Lagoon. I actually ran back to take a photo of it after we had a long discussion about it. Talk about attention to detail…

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These were the only two Duffy and Shellie May bears left in the Mermaid Lagoon gift shop. I liked the way just a bit of light was hitting them, almost like a spotlight. Given the way Japanese guests feel about Duffy and Shellie May, it would not at all surprise me if no guests would purchase one or the other of these bears, not wanting to leave one “alone” on the shelf.

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In the United States, this would be a limit in the same sense that a “bonus” FastPass for Carousel of Progress is an actual FastPass. In Japan, it’s a real limit to prevent resellers from gobbling up everything. We later saw Duffy items from past seasons for $100+ each in a Tokyo mall.

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We saw the Little Mermaid show in Mermaid Lagoon theater (no photography allowed). It was a great attraction that was best viewed in the abstract, as the puppets and acrobatics were really neat. I think the pacing and story (even in the abstract sense) could be improved upon, but the show captured the spirit and fluidity of the mermaid world very well.

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Even in “simple” Mermaid Lagoon, the gift shop is located inside a whale. The whale seems friendly.

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Send mail to your favorite mermaid. Or family back home.

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This fortune-telling/gypsy snake is the pre-show to the Magic Lamp Theater 3D show. I fell asleep during the main show.

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After a couple of shows, it was time to get amped up with a carousel ride. Henry’ll raise the roof to that!

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In typical Tokyo DisneySea fashion, this was no simple carousel. It was a double-decker, with the most ornate and lavish details I’ve ever seen.

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Dinner was up next, and we decided to go with what was close: Casbah Food Court. We’ll have a full review of Casbah Food Court next week, but for now, here’s my meal.

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We had to race back to Mediterranean Harbor in time for Fantasmic! We didn’t have the best view, but for arriving at the last minute, our spots weren’t too bad.

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Not a great photo, but Clarice seems to be everyone’s favorite rare character, so I thought posting a photo of her would earn me some street cred.

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I don’t care which language you speak: the act of Mickey shooting sparks being awesome is universal.

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With Tokyo DisneySea closing in less than an hour, we decided to head over to Tokyo Disneyland, which was open for another hour and a half. Henry and Kate stayed behind…we’d next see them in Kyoto!

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Throughout our visit, Splash Mountain had the longest lines in the park. Thankfully, it also had Single Rider, which seemingly no one besides us used.

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While not substantially different from the US versions, I loved the subtle differences of the Zip-A-Dee Lady scene in Tokyo Disneyland.

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As is always the case in every park, Frontierland/Critter Country were tranquil at night. It’s always nice just to relax and wander these lands late in the evening.

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We did some other things, but I mostly just put the camera away until the park closed, trying to savor our final moments in the park. Once it closed, I started taking photos. Thanks to light drizzle that kept hitting my lens (and the difficulty of balancing it on the handrail here), it took me about 5 minutes to get this shot.

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Here’s one of the 30th Anniversary contraptions that’s located behind Partners. The distance from Partners to Cinderella Castle is about the length of the Magic Kingdom’s full Main Street, give or take.

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Looking down World Bazaar toward the entrance (not the Train Station).

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My opinion of World Bazaar is colored a lot by how it looks at night. Since no sunlight comes through the ceiling at night, it looks sort of like a factory or warehouse. That, plus the plain cement makes it feel impersonal and less inviting than the other Main Streets. At least, that’s my take.

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Sharing the Magic is located under the  entrance. I think the Walt Disney Company makes gifts of all statues to the Oriental Land Company. Storytellers was recently “given” to them and installed in Tokyo DisneySea. I like the shallow depth of field with the wall leading to Sharing the Magic (my camera was actually touching the wall to create that effect), but I’m not sure whether it looks better in color or black & white…

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…I’m not normally a fan of black & white photos unless there’s a compelling reason for it. Here, I’m not sure that the plain color adds anything. Texture, light, and shadow all seem better conveyed in black & white. What do you think?

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We saved every last moment of being in Tokyo Disneyland, taking lots of photos, and only leaving once we absolutely had to. Last guests out on our last night…

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This is the Tokyo Disneyland/Tokyo Disneyland Hotel monorail station, located between TDL and TDLH. It’s beautiful.

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Tokyo Disneyland Hotel is also gorgeous.

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While Tokyo Disneyland Hotel often plays second fiddle to Hotel MiraCosta, it is the newer and quite possibly the nicer of the two. However, it lacks the whole “being in a theme park” draw that the MiraCosta has.

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This is one of the most “unfortunate” photos I have ever taken. It’s unfortunate in the sense that Sarah headed back to the Hilton Tokyo Bay after we were done in Tokyo Disneyland Hotel, but I decided to go to the MiraCosta to see Henry and Kate’s room (overlooking the Aquasphere!) there.

As I was taking pictures of the lobby, I noticed that I only had 15 minutes until the monorail stopped running. Rather than playing it safe and catching the second to last one, I figured I’d go out front (where this fountain is located), and then head up to the monorail platform once I saw the second to last monorail pass. After about 5 minutes outside, I saw it pass, so I headed to the platform.

Unfortunately, the very last monorail stops its run at Ikspiari…which I didn’t realize until after I boarded it, and got dropped off there, which is farther from Hilton Tokyo Bay than the MiraCosta. My MiFi was dead and I had no cash, so I was incommunicado and couldn’t pay for a taxi. I went inside the Ambassador Hotel to get a map of Tokyo Disney Resort to figure out the fastest way to get to the Hilton by walking.

…over an hour later, I made it back to the Hilton Tokyo Bay to find (a very worried) Sarah who wouldn’t what the heck I had been doing.

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Not even that could even remotely taint what was an incredible trip. The next morning, we quickly hit Ikspiari to buy some stuff, then caught a bullet train for Kyoto.

For a place like Tokyo Disney Resort, I’d normally include some final thoughts, but I’m not entirely sure that’s appropriate here. Instead, I’ll give you this: I am aware that I’ve been hyping up the Tokyo parks a lot. I’d normally be hesitant to do that, especially since I know many of you rely us when making Disney travel decisions, and you expect candid and honest opinions, not just ‘magic and pixie dust’ or other fluff. However, I have no hesitation here to give Tokyo Disney Resort the highest praise possible, because it absolutely deserves that, and I think virtually every Disney fan who visits Tokyo will have an amazing time. While there’s some room for debate with regard to Disneyland Paris and whether it’s worth an international visit (we think so, but others justifiably disagree), I think there is no such room for debate with Tokyo Disney Resort.

This is the best Disney resort complex in the world. Not just “pound for pound,” but flat out the best. Walt Disney World has the draw of quantity/size, Disneyland has the draw of history, and Disneyland Paris has the draw of Europe, but Tokyo Disney Resort has draw of being the best. From Cast Members who give new meaning to the “Disney Difference” to guests who have great respect and an unparalleled passion for Disney (sorry, Disneyland APs) to the sheer quality and incredible maintenance of those parks, Tokyo Disney Resort fires on all cylinders and is, in our opinion, without question, the best Disney theme park complex.

Since it is the best, it only stands to reason that this won’t be a once in a lifetime trip for us. That means there’s no point in any “final thoughts” on Tokyo, as they wouldn’t be very final. Instead, we’ll provide ongoing thoughts on Tokyo, much like we do for Walt Disney World or Disneyland. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this trip report as much as I’ve enjoyed sharing it, and we really do appreciate the time you take to read it–we know it’s just as much a commitment on your end to read as it is on my end to write it. So thanks!

As we say at the end of our trip reports for those ‘regular’ Disney locations, “See Ya Real Soon!”

Your Thoughts…

Any final thoughts of your own? Again, we appreciate you taking the time to read our trip reports (and all posts here)–please share any of your thoughts in the comments!

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34 Responses to “Tokyo Disney Resort Trip Report – Part 12”

  1. Kayla says:

    Good news – light fixtures captured my attention! Bad news – I spent the first part of this post thinking about my favorite and least favorite light fixtures :)

    I’d love to see World Bazaar in person because I love photos of it, and was surprised you don’t care for it. The flat ground with no elevation changes (just painted on curbs) is a disservice to aesthetics, as well as the lack of trees.

    Thank you for all the time you put into this trip report. I love WDW and DLR TRs too, but it’s refreshing to read about something that isn’t so familiar.

  2. Patricia says:

    Tom, what a great job on the Tokyo Disney reports. As a Disney fan who honestly has not done much research on the Tokyo parks, I’ve been blown away by what you have shared with us. It has certainly opened a huge appreciation for what Disney has built there.

    Thanks for all the hard work, early mornings and late nights to bring us so many wonder photographs!

  3. Kevin says:

    I’m with Kayla – the light fixture actually caught my attention as well. As for the change in style, you should have asked the question at the end; I’m not sure I would have noticed if you hadn’t put it right up front.

    Thanks for finishing off an amazing trip report. It definitely puts Japan on the map of placed I’d like to visit some day.

    As for the “sharing the magic” picture, I prefer the black and white. Neither are my favorite images of yours, I think the wall to the left dominates too much even with the shallow depth of field. But in the color picture all the red makes the green shop in the distance draw my eye more than the statue does.

    Fortress Explorations looks pretty awesome. (Although I actually like the Be Our Guest gargoyles better!) That looks like a really fun place to wander around.

  4. Edgardo Resto says:

    Tom, great trip report! You have definitely sealed the deal with me on making the trip to see TDR for myself. Now I have to convince my non-Disney loving wife to make the trip with me. At least I have my kids on my side! :-) Thanks for sharing. Always fun to read. (And the new style works great, by the way.)

  5. Mikey says:

    Regarding your final paragraph. It’s amazing how many put the boot into Disneyland Paris and I just don’t get it. We’ve just come back from a trip from Disneyland Paris to Walt Disney World to Disneyland and hands down, we thought Disneyland Paris was the best magic kingdom of them all. Certainly the most beautiful but also has details the others lack. Seemingly the rides were also so much bigger and better. Space Mountain, Big Thunder, Pirates was even better than Disneyland’s!

    For whoever plans a trip to Disneyland Paris – good on you. It’s the magic kingdom to perfection we thought.

  6. Rose says:

    Any chance you’ll have a post on your observations about the culture of Duffy and Shellie May?

  7. Arjay says:

    Thanks for all the work in all 12 issues of these trip reports. I personally like this new style of reporting and vote for it going forward. Having captions under almost each picture I think “forces” the average site visitor–who might normally just look at the pictures–to actually read the story behind each one.

    I don’t know about anybody else but you’ve inspired me to put visiting the Tokyo Disney Resort on my personal bucket list, no matter how long it takes to get fulfilled.

  8. Alice says:

    Bring back the rambling!! :) I read your trip reports from beginning to end and I feel like I’m missing all your little “tid bits” of information with this new style.

    But anyway, Tokyo Disneyland is on my bucket list and I have you to thank for that!

  9. Lisa Gruskin says:

    I was very excited to see this Tokyo installment this morning! Traveling to one of the international parks had never really been on our radar….but it sure is now!

    Just wanted to take a minute to provide some feedback on the format change. While I love having more discriptions to what we are seeing in your photos, I really love your previous style. The detailed descriptions you provide & the little detours you take with opinions on other topics are fun.

    Whatever style you choose to continue with, I’m hooked & greatly look forward to your next adventure. :)

  10. Peggy says:

    Thank you for your detailed trip reports! I felt as if I was reliving my 50th birthday trip from a couple of years ago!
    I loved that you all loved Chandu! I think our photo collection of the light fixtures could rival yours. I made photos books of our trip– and dedicated pages just to those fixtures! :-)
    I was fascinated with Fortress Explorations. Like you, I initially wasn’t interested in the area, but once inside, found it to be amazing. Surprisingly, my daughter with Down syndrome really enjoyed herself in the area. We thoroughly enjoyed Big Band Beat– and the Harrison Hightower Tower of Terror is the most amazing TOT of them all (talk about theming!!),
    I would love to return to these parks someday! But– for now we have other places to adventure to, hopefully Hong Kong Disneyland next.
    Love your reports!

  11. Will says:

    I love the old style commenting- most every other theme park site, Disney or not, does the captioning on their trip reports, and your old style makes the blog unique. It seemed like your voice was silenced a bit with the new format.

  12. Skipper Kelly says:

    Thanks for another awesome trip report. Tokyo Disney looks breathtaking.

    I actually prefer your old blog style as opposed to the new one.

  13. Kaitlin O. says:

    I love how as I am reading this final installment, you are currently back in Asia already! These trip reports have been a blast to read, I would love to travel to Tokyo some day soon. I cannot wait to read about your adventures – I am following along on Instagram and I squeal with delight when either of you posts awesome shots! Enjoy your trip, and remember every detail so we can pine over them ;)

    • Tom Bricker says:

      If ever was any “proof” that we enjoyed Tokyo Disney Resort, our fast return should be it. Here’s hoping we’re back again soon. Halloween 2014 is the goal! :)

  14. Alisha says:

    I think I like the old way better as well. I agree with whoever said it sounds like your natural voice is stifled. But were there more photos in this one? Maybe it just looks like there are because there’s less text in between them. Anyway thanks for another great report! I’m already anxious for Hong Kong’s!!

  15. Candice says:

    Love all your reports, but prefer the old style. The old style is like a really enjoyable book, that I keep returning to. It’s like being on the journey with you. The new style is too brief, I don’t feel part of it. Will stay loyal regardless!

  16. Myluit says:

    really awesome…thanks for sharing the beautiful photos .

  17. Stephen in FL says:

    Love the pictures that you took for this post! The ones from Halloween were pretty cool, but these shots from Tokyo have been stellar. I have always wanted to go there, but I’m not sure if I’ll have a good opportunity anytime soon. Luckily, I can get a pretty good mental picture of what it would be like adventuring this park (I’m also a big fan of strolling these parks at night when the crowds have thinned). Thanks for sharing.

  18. Amy says:

    First off, I loved the TDR trip report. Amazing pictures & great information on the parks, attractions & restaurants. I’m hoping you will maybe, perhaps continue the report and include posts on your time in Kyoto & Tokyo. We are planning a Japan trip in May/June and while TDR is the highlight of our trip we plan to spend time in other parts of Japan as well. Anyway, I love following you & Sarah on Instagram. I can’t wait for the Disneyland Hong Kong trip report.
    Safe travels!

  19. Christian says:

    Thank you for posting such a detailed trip report overall. It was incredibly helpful & informative when planning my trip to TDR. I had a wonderful time there last week. I hope to return there in the near future. Hong Kong is next on my trip list. Thanks again!

  20. Alexis says:

    Really loved this trip report! It was my first article I found on the site and I’m going to dive into Paris after this. This park looks amazing! I was a bit unsure of the charm of TDL after my dad and his wife took a trip back when they were living and Guam and stated the language barrier to be a bit much. Then again, they were only there for a couple of hours. Looking at your photos and experience, I am 100% sure I want to visit sometime very soon. Thank you so much for putting so much time and effort into an amazing trip report! Hope you had a great trip!

  21. Tom Bricker says:

    Thanks for all of the comments on this, everyone! My apologies, but I’m not going to be able to respond to all of them. As some of you know, we just returned from Hong Kong and Tokyo, so I’m trying to get photos edited as quickly as I can for future posts!

    As for the trip report style, I’ll try to tweak it further, but this wasn’t really up for a vote (THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY! ;)). I changed the style because the reports are much quicker for me to write this way and lack of time is by far my biggest enemy. I’ll see what I can do to compromise between the styles, though.

  22. Scott says:

    I noticed the exact same thing at Splash Mountain… Single Rider had NO wait and the Standby wait was 180 minutes! My group of four was even lucky enough to get seated as two pairs!

    I felt like I was WAY cheating the system. I wonder why this occurs, the Indiana Jones Single Rider seemed relatively well populated to me.

  23. Penny S. says:

    Hello there! I’m sorry if this question has been asked before, but I would really love to know which Nikon dslr you used for your disney tokyo trip? Also, is it a pain to lug around a dslr and a backpack all day long? I love your site! I love Disney! I love you guys!

    Thanks,
    Penny

  24. Val says:

    Literally the best trip report I’ve ever read. I just stumbled onto the website and blog posts by accident and was simply wowed. Your photography is stunning and you trip report was simultaneously hilarious and immersive. I loved it!!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the kind words. If this one is the best, I assume it’s also the first one you’ve ever read, anywhere! ;)

  25. Patrick Yates says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Great pictures & I really enjoyed your detailed narratives…rambling & all. Grew up going to WDW & love taking my kids there now, but so far it is the only park I’ve visited. Have been to Asia to adopt my 2 precious little ones, but I was not quite able to fit the Asian parks into my itinerary at those times. BUT, we hope to travel back to our children’s birth countries eventually & definitely want to have a layover for a few days in Tokyo. Thanks to your blog it is just making us want to go sooner rather than later! (if funds were not an issue, I would have booked the flights right after reading your blog!)

    On another note, can’t wait to here your thoughts on the new FastPass+ & the tiering at WDW.

  26. Mike says:

    Thank you Tom and Sarah for your amazing post and pictures from your Tokyo Disney trip. I have always been interested in visiting especially for DisneySea, but after reading your trip, I am even more convinced I need to make it there. I’m looking forward to your trip planning article on Tokyo Disney.

    Mike

  27. Sarah says:

    I’m heading to Tokyo in less than a week, I’m staying at the Hilton and spending four days there… I was already really excited but if it was at all possible i am even more excited after reading this blog!!! it’s been very helpful and I can’t wait to explore the park myself… this will be my fourth park (still yet to do Disney World) thanks for the tips and sharing you r amzing photos!!!

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